HC Deb 12 March 1980 vol 980 cc596-7W
Dr. Roger Thomas

asked the Secretary of State for Social Service if he will make a statement on the recent availability and circulation throughout the United Kingdom of two separate do-it-yourself, abortion instruction leaflets, in the light of the dangerous complications which could be caused by such procedures.

Mr. Patrick Jenkin

I have seen copies of these downright dangerous leaflets. Induced abortion is lawful only within the terms of the Abortion Act 1967. In any other circumstances, a person who administers drugs or uses instruments with intent to procure a miscarriage, or a woman who does so to procure her own miscarriage, is liable to imprisonment for life. Any person who unlawfully supplies any substance or instrument in the knowledge that it is intended to be used to procure a miscarriage is liable to imprisonment for three years.

The procedure described in the leaflets was used by back-street abortionists before the 1967 Act and the tragic results in terms of infection, haemorrhage, infertility and death are well known. The leaflets purport to reassure women that the procedures described are safe. Nothing could be further from the truth. In one leaflet it is suggested that, if there are complications, the woman should present herself to a National Health Service hospital: I cannot emphasise too strongly that such attendance might be too late to prevent serious, even permanent, harm.

Neither of these dreadful leaflets indicates its origin. I am advised that it is possible that those responsible for the preparation or distribution of the leaflets may have committed criminal offences. My Department is therefore pursuing the matter with a view to bringing it to the attention of the Director of Public Prosecutions.